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Anti-this war now, and most (but not all) wars most of the time

August 16th, 2006

Since Daniel at CT has identified me as abandoning the “Anti-this war now” viewpoint, and since I’m increasingly in agreement with Jim Henley’s Anti-Most Wars Most of the Time position, I thought I’d try to restate my version of ATWN as it applies to Iraq. I haven’t managed to work it all out, so as with Daniel I’d be grateful for suggestions.

My claim to be part of the ATWN camp is that that in the circumstances of 2002, I thought it was reasonable to support Resolution 1441, threatening war if Saddam did not accept renewed open weapons inspections. Even at this point, however, the issues of leadership and competence come up. I assumed that Blair, at least, was genuine in seeking to present Saddam with an ultimatum, and not merely seeking a legal pretext for a war around which “policy had already been fixed”. So, while I had little faith in Bush, I overestimated the honesty of the whole process on the basis that Blair was involved. In this context, dishonesty and incompetence are highly correlated, since it’s impossible to keep your own assessment of the facts insulated from the lies disseminated to the public.

An important part of my thinking, as regards democratic intervention is that it requires a specific, legally defensible objective, rather than multiple rationales. So, as soon as it became clear, in late 2002 and early 2003, that the WMD case didn’t stand up, I opposed the war, and took the view that, if another case was to be made, the whole process had to be restarted.

Suppose that Saddam had refused to accept Resolution 1441, and that the leaders of the US and UK were honest and competent. Would the disaster we have seen been inevitable anyway? I don’t think so. The war would have been authorised by an explicit resolution of the UN Security Council, and it would have been reasonable to hope for a substantial peacekeeping force ideally with a substantial Muslim component, as well as a much larger European contribution. Disasters like the Coalition Provisional Administration, and the US attack on Sadr (recognisable in retrospect as the opening battle of the Iraq Civil War) would never have taken place.

So I think that a war in these circumstances would have had a fair chance of producing a decent outcome in Iraq. And of course in this counterfactual, Saddam would have had weapons he was unwilling to abandon, and might at some point have passed to terrorists, making the self-defence justification for the war much more clear-cut.

Of course, this is all hypothetical, and to some extent so is Daniel’s question about democratic intervention. Regardless of its abstract merits, the idea has been killed, for the foreseeable future, by the disaster in Iraq. More generally, Iraq has taught me at least to be more critical and sceptical about all arguments for war (including violent revolution). I hope though, that we don’t abandon the idea of humanitarian intervention as well, even if we are more careful about it. Perhaps there are no good options in, for example, Darfur, but I still think the world could be doing more and doing it better than at present.

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  1. observa
    August 16th, 2006 at 23:40 | #1

    “The war would have been authorised by an explicit resolution of the UN Security Council, and it would have been reasonable to hope for a substantial peacekeeping force ideally with a substantial Muslim component,”
    Surely Afghanistan proves this to be a naive pipedream, as it would be to expect Muslim peacekeepers in Lebanon now, although in the latter case they are not alone by the looks of things. So much for the unrepresented swill of the UN.

  2. jquiggin
    August 17th, 2006 at 06:50 | #2

    As far as I know, no Muslim countries were even asked in Afghanistan. I’d put the looming disaster there entirely down to the incompetence of the Bushies who have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  3. observa
    August 17th, 2006 at 07:56 | #3

    Was/is it a case of knowing the answer to the request before asking, or you simply couldn’t trust their troops anyway? I also thought Russia and China with large standing armies are members of the UN too, but you wouldn’t think it, by the size of their peacekeeping commitments anywhere. It’s left to the same old united liberal democratic nations, with the gaggle of gangsters and the Western Left whining from the sidelines.

  4. Terje (say tay-a)
    August 17th, 2006 at 08:23 | #4

    I opposed the war in Iraq for many of the same reasons. The WMD issue shattered my faith in the major world leaders even before the war kicked off. The lies were quite explicit.

    Following the fall of Bagdad I did become quite hopeful that the war would work out better.

    I am not sure if war was worse than perpetual sanctions. However those that advocated no war and continued sanctions were in my view not so humanitarian either.

  5. August 17th, 2006 at 10:53 | #5

    Pr Q says:

    I assumed that Blair, at least, was genuine in seeking to present Saddam with an ultimatum, and not merely seeking a legal pretext for a war around which “policy had already been fixed�. So, while I had little faith in Bush, I overestimated the honesty of the whole process on the basis that Blair was involved. In this context, dishonesty and incompetence are highly correlated, since it’s impossible to keep your own assessment of the facts insulated from the lies disseminated to the public.

    One can never go broke underestimating the degree of knavery and folly in both Bush’s US and the sectarian ME.

    Iraq attack is a good example of Machievellianism gone wrong. It may be ok to lie in the national interest in order to dupe an enemy. It is never right to lie in the national interest in order to fabricate an enemy.

    The UN’s legalist disarmament process was a complement, not substitute, for the US’s militarist regime change. Iraq was invaded because, not in spite, of its disarmed status.

    I had figured the US had some other reason for invading Iraq out by Aug-sep 2002. I hypothesised a client state swap: Saudis ditched/Iraqis hitched. So far this hypothesis has more or less held up as the US has quit bases from Saudi and enduring bases in Iraq. Confirmed by Wilkie.

    Pr Q says:

    I opposed the war, and took the view that, if another case was to be made, the whole process had to be restarted.

    Suppose that Saddam had refused to accept Resolution 1441, and that the leaders of the US and UK were honest and competent.

    Would the disaster we have seen been inevitable anyway? I don’t think so. The war would have been authorised by an explicit resolution of the UN Security Council, and it would have been reasonable to hope for a substantial peacekeeping force ideally with a substantial Muslim component, as well as a much larger European contribution. Disasters like the Coalition Provisional Administration, and the US attack on Sadr (recognisable in retrospect as the opening battle of the Iraq Civil War) would never have taken place.

    So I think that a war in these circumstances would have had a fair chance of producing a decent outcome in Iraq. And of course in this counterfactual, Saddam would have had weapons he was unwilling to abandon, and might at some point have passed to terrorists, making the self-defence justification for the war much more clear-cut.

    This “legal interventionist” counter-factual is very implausible, given what we know about the ME, its xenophobia towards Westerners (large scale xenophobia) and its sectarianism towards infidels. (small scale xenophobia.)

    The disaster of Iraq would be inevitable in any realisticly conceivable circumstances of regime change. Iraq is a tribalistic nation riven by sectarian hatred. Granted another US admin would have done better. And the UN would have been better than the US, but neither is up to the task. The light bulb has to want to change.

    The invasion violated bleeding obvious principles of humane conservatism. Regime changing countries without good cause generates national hostility to the invaders. And nation building a multiethnic dictatorship into a multucultural democracy is a fools errand eg Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan etc.

    The fact that the agency of the change was the Bush admin – dumbest ass govt in the OECD – and the target of the change was Iraq – baddest ass state in the ME – only compounded the folly and knavery.

    Can Pr Q name an example where the UN has turned a strife-torn ME nation into a civil civil? The only time this has happened is when the governments in power have been agreeable eg Sadat. And that was the US acting as broker.

    Given those cards it would not have mattered if the CPA had been composed of Solomon, david Hume and Pr Q. It would have failed to make Iraq into a civil state. Just as every other ME party has failed to make Iraq into a civil state.

  6. snuh
    August 17th, 2006 at 13:44 | #6

    I also thought Russia and China with large standing armies are members of the UN too, but you wouldn’t think it, by the size of their peacekeeping commitments anywhere. It’s left to the same old united liberal democratic nations, with the gaggle of gangsters and the Western Left whining from the sidelines.

    to pick an example entirely at random, UNIFIL‘s troops come from “China, France, Ghana, India, Ireland, Italy, Poland and Ukraine”. i don’t think there’s any support for the proposition that western nations make a disproportionately great contribution to these sorts of missions.

  7. observa
    August 17th, 2006 at 14:25 | #7

    Oh I see, the same UNIFIL troops that supervised the takeover of southern Lebanon by an international terrorist organisation in Hezbollah. What was their job- to count Katusha rockets and the like and hand out certificates of approval for their safe transport and storage among civilians? They don’t actually charge Hezbollah for issuing the certificates do they? Now that would be a conflict of interest.

    Anyhow, it’s time to get out of ET and plonk the spare troops in Afghanistan or Iraq by the looks of things. No sense staying where you’re not wanted by democratically elected govts.
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,20158514-401,00.html?from=public_rss

  8. still working it out
    August 17th, 2006 at 14:37 | #8

    The client state swap fits my understanding too.

    There are some interesting sections in the “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins about the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US. In the 1970′s the Saudi’s were offered military protection by the US and compelete modernisation of the country on the condition that they used the oil revenue to pay American companies to undertake the modernisation, and kept their excess revenue in US treasury bonds. This was attractive to Saudi Arabia because it meant it did not have to create their own powerful military which would almost inevitably get fed up with taking orders from the Saudi’s and throw them out in a coup.

    From what I understand the same deal was offered to Saddam, I believe after the Iran/Iraq war. He thought about it and eventually passed. This then began the decade long project to get ride of him, resulting in the endless suffering of the Iraqi people. The removal of Saddam has been a very long term project of American right wing interests. Iraq and Iran have been the last barriers to complete American hegemon in the oil rich gulf states.

    The only rationale which makes any real sense to me for the Iraq war was to establish permanent military bases in Iraq to replace the ones they were having increasing political difficulty with in Saudi Arabia. With American military bases on the doorstop of Iran, right in the heart of the oil rich regions of the middle east security for American friendly regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE etc would be assured, guaranteening access to oil.

    It sounds simplistic, but in the end, in my opinion, it really was all just about oil.

  9. FDB
    August 17th, 2006 at 14:53 | #9

    Of course it was all about oil. Is it considered unfashionable to say so?

    Democracy? pffft.

    WMD? hahahahahahahahaha. ha.

    Even the evangelist/zionist nutjobs are just a smokescreen.

  10. observa
    August 17th, 2006 at 15:34 | #10

    Thanks for the history of past US administrations in a Cold War, etc environment SWIO, but it doesn’t tell us much about those big bad neocons more recently now does it? The other fly in the theory ointment is just what was in all of the ditch the Saudis hitch the Iraqis for Blair and all those other willing coalition members that believed in the Iraq venture eh?

    What I now believe drove them to override all the obvious reservations outlined by Jack and attempt the unlikely, was the stark realisation post Sept11, that unless decent civil societies could be had in the ME and quickly, the world was eventually going to war again. You only have to read Blair pre-Sept11 to realise how much he foresaw what was brewing. The stark facts are that Sept 11 was the catalyst to act and ask the question of one particular lot of Muslims. Are they like WW2 Germans and Japanese or not? Iraqis have given us the answer and so have Afghanis, much to the horror of our multicultural wets. Peculiarly enough, for all the neocon’s faults in Iraq, their default PlanB was always a better one than the wets and their UN/Afghanistan mirror image project. Saddam is gone and with him any future military threat, the Kurds are happy and the Sunni AlQaeda sympathisers are facing off with Shia Hezbollah sympathisers. That’s essentially their choice, despite the usual public servant critique that the Bushies were under resourced for nation building.(if only ATSIC had more dough, yada,yada stuff) Truth is the coalition can walk out of Iraq right now with little downside, unlike walking out and leaving Afghanistan to the Taliban and AQ. In that the current neocons were smarter than the wets, much to the latter’s ongoing chagrin. Unless Islam splits permanently into warring sectarian factions like Catholics and Protestants of old and turn on themselves, we are going to war with Islam to finish one or the other belief system. I have no confidence at all that the so-called peaceful majority of Muslims can prevent that now. When push comes to shove, they’ll choose their God and we’ll choose ours and devil take the hindmost. Iran is next cab off the rank, but we know the answer to nation building now.

  11. snuh
    August 17th, 2006 at 17:14 | #11

    so you’ve switched from saying “those browns don’t do their fair share of peacekeeping missions” to “the reason peacekeeping missions fail is because they’re always run by the browns”.

    seemless.

  12. August 17th, 2006 at 18:51 | #12

    swio says:

    It sounds simplistic, but in the end, in my opinion, it really was all just about oil.

    Yes, but is the destination of the oil revenues, not the level of oil costs, that is the source of military friction. The Gulf’s cheap oil is not sought after to reduce costs for industrial enterprise. It is wanted as a source of revenue to fund martial establishments.

    If the US just wanted secure and cheap oil out of the ME it could have long ago used its commercial and martial power to negotiate contracts to give its oil companies favourable access to the sweet crude wells. But it wanted more, a deal that ensured that the owners of the oil spent much of it on US military and commercial services eg Carlyle Group.

    After nearly three decades of accumulating this wealth, the group referred to by bankers as “high net worth Saudi individuals” holds between $500 billion and $1 trillion abroad, most of it in European and American investments.

    This is a huge sea of fungible assets supporting the American economy and belonging to a relatively small group of people — about 85,000 Saudis, Seitz said, is the estimate of bankers. Managing these hundreds of billions can be a lucrative business for brokers and bankers in London, Geneva and New York.

    The US wanted to turn Iraq into the new Saudi, after the old Saudi had gone bad.

    “Saudi” Arabia is more and more a U.S. military base in the Middle East, in addition to its role of oil cow and petrodollar recycler. Those who benefit are primarily Americans, Royal Saudis, and those willing to get in bed with the two. Those who suffer are the people of Saudi Arabia who live in a police-state and whose standard of living, amazingly, has not only fallen dramatically in recent years but is now less than that of the Israelis. The mismanagement of “Saudi” Arabia by the Saud family is a tale of curruption and deceit of epoch proportions.

    The Saudi money was channelled into US-organised security and securities. But the story of the Saudi client state was hushed up:

    A few years ago, when one well-known investigative journalist, Scott Armstrong, attempted to report the long road to turning Saudi Arabia into a huge American military facility major news outlets — including THE WASHINGTON POST he had previously published with — refused. His article instead appeared on the cover of MOTHER JONES where few to this day are aware of its importance.

    “A DECADE OF DECEPTION” The $200 Billion Secret: Three presidents and two kings — out of view of the Congress, the press, and the public — created a covert network of superbases in Saudi Arabia. Last January, Bush decided to use it.”

    Saddam would not play ball and then overstepped the line in Kuwait. The US did not want a Baathist Iraq since it used its oil revenues to build up an anti-US/ISR military power – a four point turnaround in basket ball terminology. When they found out that their client state in Saudi did the same thing under the carpet by subsidising an anti-US/ISR terrorist network they resolved on the swap.

    Right at the death Saddam offered the Bushies a very juicy client state deal, just what they always wanted.

    The report also listed five areas of concessions the Iraqis said they would make to avoid a war, including

    – cooperation in fighting terrorism and

    – “full support for any U.S. plan” in the Arab-Israeli peace process. In addition, the report said that

    – “the U.S. will be given first priority as it relates to Iraq oil, mining rights,” and that

    – Iraq would cooperate with United States strategic interests in the region.

    – Finally, under the heading “Disarmament,” the report said, “Direct U.S. involvement on the ground in disarming Iraq.”

    But they knocked it back: they wanted it all. Tony Soprano would have grabbed it with both hands but the Bushies are a bad mixture of greedy realism and stupid idealism.

    Neither client-statism or democracy-promotion works in the ME. Nothing works because their cultures have evolved to thwart nation states.

  13. August 17th, 2006 at 19:02 | #13

    jquiggin Says: August 17th, 2006 at 6:50 am

    I’d put the looming disaster there entirely down to the incompetence of the Bushies who have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    I doubt that the Clintons would have done much better. The Brits and Soviets both tried to turn Afghanistan into some kind of proper state, but they failed. I suspect its the people, rather than the policies, that are at fault in SW Asia.

    The majority of these peoples probably just want a better life for themselves and families – just like us. But a much larger minority want to raise hell in order to get even or make a clean sweep. In the Islamic world one counts balls, not noses.

    It only takes one-percent of the population to screw things up. In SW Asia the bad-ass fraction is probably closer to ten percent.

    Do a thought experiement and put AUstralia into the shoes of Afghanistan. Imagine if the Hells Angels, and other biker gangs, became political. Imagine that they wanted to take over the government and education system instead of just wanting to be left alone to make road runs, push drugs and bonk mamas. They form militias, knock off moderate politicians and terrorise the populus.

    That is how Afghan sectarian politics are run.

    Impossible to govern.

  14. sdfc
    August 17th, 2006 at 23:07 | #14

    Its not the people Jack its the lack of institutions – rule of law, strong government etc. If the Hells Angels went down the track of your thought experiment a large portion of them would end up either in gaol or dead.

  15. ansteybranchopolous
    August 17th, 2006 at 23:09 | #15

    my belief about war has since seeing blood smeared condemnations of Li Peng on June 3 1989 in Beijing, let the fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers who will walow in the most blood be the victors and spend the rest of their lives worshiping as heroes the butcher soldiers who do the work of cowardly inept politicians

  16. observa
    August 18th, 2006 at 00:34 | #16

    Taliban Imam meets Madonna (with or without crucifixion) in the era of globalisation is probably where the real clash of civilisations lies. Perhaps Solzhenitsyn had an inkling of such a clash here
    http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/2006/08/nor-any-voice-of-mourning-save-choirs.html

  17. August 18th, 2006 at 07:44 | #17

    Never believed there were WMD, always opposed.

    There was a genuine self defence reason for being in afghanistan. I don’t think it’s impossible to turn a country into a functioning democracy; who knows what might have happened if they’d stayed there and concentrated all their resources and effort on making 1 project work.

  18. Paul Kelly the footy player and journo
    August 18th, 2006 at 08:57 | #18

    I agree with the PM that we owe Vietnam Vets an apology. We should never have sent them there.

  19. still working it out
    August 18th, 2006 at 09:04 | #19

    Jack Strocci,

    Thanks for the links.

    I agree that Clinton could not have made Iraq work, but for different reasons.

    A Clinton team would have inevitably tried to impose “Washtington Consensus” political and economic policies. Rapid liberalisation and privatisation of the economy, inevitably resulting in high levels of unemployment which would kill support for political reforms and any central government that emerged. Its hard to see how people who basically do not believe government has much of a role in a state could actually create one.

    We have seen how disastrous those policies are in places like Russia, which is today as much a result of Clinton as anyone. The Washington Consensus crowd have never really acknowledged those failures so its pretty certain that if they had charge of Iraq they would have done the same thing there.

    Before the war I had thought an Islamic driven insurgency and a failed state were inevitable. Since then I have come to doubt that view. The strength of pre-existing stabilising forces such as political Shiites and the Kurds and the suprisingly slow descent into anarchy (surprising to me, anyway) in the face of decisions that are moronic beyond what I could have imagined have made me wonder.

  20. milano803
    August 18th, 2006 at 10:30 | #20

    The WMD was never the sole issue for me. The issue was Saddam’s refusal to do as the UN demanded. It’s unreasonable to say that the UN will just role out resolution after resolution against a nation, have that nation ignore them all, and then we all do nothing. If that’s the deal, then we all should go back to taking care of ourselves first and letting the other guy worry about him/her self. There is so safety in herding together if none of our words mean anything.

    I’m not in favor of rebuilding anyone. If you ignore binding UN resolutions 17 times, you take the consequences and rebuild yourself. If you can.

  21. milano803
    August 18th, 2006 at 10:31 | #21

    sorry, make that “roll” out resolution after resolution

  22. observa
    August 18th, 2006 at 11:34 | #22
  23. MichaelH
    August 18th, 2006 at 11:45 | #23

    SWIO,

    I largely agree with your view. There are inherent features of any group/society that are stabilising and self-perpetuating. Part of the solution in places like Iraq is not to interfere with, or destroy, these features (as the US did).

    For instance in the immediate wash-up to the COW invasion, local groups proceeded to provide basic essential services. These were, in effect, local council bodies, formed and run along locally acceptable lines. The US move to impose its ‘democracy’ through groups such as RTI, systematically dismantled and excluded these spontaneous Iraqi formations, in favour of US appointed ‘councils’ which were immediately discredited by the manner of their formation. In many cases the appointed members became targets for the insurgency.

    There is always hope, despite what the ‘cultural determinists’ would prefer to believe.

  24. MichaelH
    August 18th, 2006 at 11:49 | #24

    “I agree with the PM that we owe Vietnam Vets an apology. We should never have sent them there” – Paul Kelly.

    Yep.

    I wonder what the reaction would be if the Japanses govt. decided that it’s troops who fought in PNG got a raw deal, and proposed a national apology for not recognising their deeds and heroism and then started handing out medals to any still around today.

  25. observa
    August 18th, 2006 at 12:40 | #25

    You can see why Howard is increasingly concerned about history lessons for kiddies
    http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=23918
    He’s rightly concerned some important history has been forgotten and needs urgent rectification.

  26. El Poppin
    August 18th, 2006 at 13:04 | #26

    One thing that bothers me in the thread is that no one has considered the effect of nationalism on the country invaded. We know from history that many atrocities have been endured by colonised societies and the liberating forces, whether guerilla or regular army have also committed atrocities specially with presumed collaborators. So the idea that if the UN had allowed democratic forces to invade a country with the idea to transform it into something else without considering that this may violently upset the local’s concept of sovereignty seems ludicrous to me. I suspect that if Iraq had been a homogenous society the COW forces would still be suffering an insurgency from nationalist forces.

  27. August 18th, 2006 at 13:21 | #27

    It just occurred to me that Pr Q’s counterfactual UN legalised interventionist war is still very much in the same vein as the “preferred war” scenarios that he rightly criticised in the case of John Derbyshire:

    In that post Pr Q said:

    By contrast, the supporters of the war were giving their support to very different kinds of war and assuming that their own preferred version would be the one that took place. But if they were honest with themselves (as Derbyshire has been, at least retrospectively) they should have looked at their allies and realised that there was no warrant for this assumption.

    This is correct, as the pro-war party’s “preferred war” which was bound to differ owing to the clash between multiple agendas.

    But in this post Pr Q says:

    Suppose that Saddam had refused to accept Resolution 1441, and that the leaders of the US and UK were honest and competent. Would the disaster we have seen been inevitable anyway? I don’t think so.

    The war would have been authorised by an explicit resolution of the UN Security Council, and it would have been reasonable to hope for a substantial peacekeeping force ideally with a substantial Muslim component, as well as a much larger European contribution. Disasters like the Coalition Provisional Administration, and the US attack on Sadr (recognisable in retrospect as the opening battle of the Iraq Civil War) would never have taken place.

    So I think that a war in these circumstances would have had a fair chance of producing a decent outcome in Iraq. And of course in this counterfactual, Saddam would have had weapons he was unwilling to abandon, and might at some point have passed to terrorists, making the self-defence justification for the war much more clear-cut.

    I think that Pr Q is cherry-picking his war of choice here. Surely this scenario is subject to a large number of uncontrollable variables which would thwart Pr Q’s option of a legal and successful humanitarian intervention? Such as the inevitable nationalistic backlash from the Suunis against the invaders. And the sectarian infighting between Shiias and Kurds.

    The problem for any intervention of what ever kind in Iraq is that it faces two intractable problems dictated by Iraq’s geography and geology. The first is that most of the oil is present in the Basra areas. This gives economic power to the Shiia.

    The second is that most of Iraq’s administrative and industrial infrastructure is in the Baghdad area. This gives strategic power to the Suunis.

    These contending power blocs were kept at bay by Hussein, who used control of the army to give the Suunis a disproportionate share of oil revenue. But once democracy replaced dictatorship there was nothing to counterbalance the Shiite numbers power. This gave Suuni fighters reason enough to start a sectarian war.

    The only way that Iraq can return to peace is if the Shiia leave the Suuni areas and vice-versa. That is ethnic cleansing. Its brutal but that is the way that coherent nations are formed. Hopefully the US can engineer some less violent way of making this happen, perhaps by giving compensation to voluntary emigrants.

  28. observa
    August 18th, 2006 at 14:41 | #28

    “I think that Pr Q is cherry-picking his war of choice here”
    You don’t say Jack? What about the Afghanistan goooood, Iraq baaaad meme? For those who don’t think they’re mirror image wars, I’d simply lay down the challenge to them to put in writing their list of pros and cons for each and how and when they can declare ‘mission accomplished’ for their favourite war. They daren’t because the game would be up, which of course the punters understand intuitively. The other bit they understand now is the answer to Bush, Blair and Co’s $64000 question about ME Muslims. Stalinist dictators like Saddam really are the best option for ME Muslims, but you mustn’t fart it too loud in polite company. Trying to convince them that our troops would be better off in Afghanistan than Iraq now, really is an exercise in futility. They know we’re really there with our finger in the dyke and which hole is largely academic now.

  29. smiths
    August 18th, 2006 at 16:00 | #29

    anyone who says they thought it was good and then found out different was either not interested in digging a bit, or cant tell information from propoganda

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2003/03/11/a-wilful-blindness/

    “Those of us who oppose the impending conquest of Iraq must recognise that there’s a possibility that, if it goes according to plan, it could improve the lives of many Iraqi people. But to pretend that this battle begins and ends in Iraq requires a wilful denial of the context in which it occurs. That context is a blunt attempt by the superpower to reshape the world to suit itself.”

    and it just keeps going on,
    prof quigg

    The actions of Hezbollah have been criminal from the outset, starting with a trivial pretext for its initial attack and then using indiscriminate rocket attacks as its main method of waging war. Hezbollah is morally responsible for all the death and destruction that predictably ensued from its actions.
    But, as is now becoming clear, the Israeli government and, even more its backers within the US Administration were eager for a pretext to destroy Hezbollah, and were willing to inflict massive death and destruction on ordinary Lebanese people in the (futile) hope achieving this goal. This policy was both wrong and, as events have shown, counterproductive.

    this again requires a total denial of easily findable factual information and a bit of balance, the israelis violate the blue line daily, but the actions of hezbollah are criminal, give me a break,
    and this is as much about destroying lebanon as an independent nation as it is about hezbollah,
    and its about the coming war with iran, sounding out the threats, designing the attack to suit,

    prof again

    The recent news from the UK suggests that the threat of terrorist attacks is going to be with us for a fair while to come.

    bullshit again, are you going to wait 2 years until they release these guys with no charge and then belatedly say, oh well i cant believe the government lied on that one,
    you found out the hard way that blair was a bare faced liar, why do you now believe that there was a terrorist plot,
    has something happened in between to restore your faith?

  30. jquiggin
    August 18th, 2006 at 16:32 | #30

    “If you ignore binding UN resolutions 17 times, you take the consequences and rebuild yourself. If you can.”

    I’m just wondering whether this charming sentiment is directed towards Saddam or towards the 100 000 or more innocent Iraqis who’ve died thanks to policies supported by Milano and others in this thread.

  31. smiths
    August 18th, 2006 at 16:52 | #31

    having read the original piece at CT you refer to john, it only infuriates me more,

    “Does it not, in fact, make a lot more sense in light of the facts to say that this was a fundamentally misconceived objective which could not have been achieved by any plan at all and should never have been attempted?”

    what objective? democratisation by force, does anyone actually believe that,
    i ask that question honestly and sincerely, does anyone still believe that the objective was to install a democratic government in iraq,
    please, please re-read the catalogue of events and decisions of the last 3 years,
    incompetence doesnt cut it, misconceived objectives doesnt cut it,

    the only theory that is adequately backed by the historical evidence, and the background of the key american players is that the original aim was to destroy a strong secular nation a nd replace it with three weak semi states, permanently fighting on sectarian lines,
    for the purposes of removing the biggest threat to israel and
    as a step in the reorganisation of the middle east for resource control by the us

  32. August 18th, 2006 at 20:11 | #32

    JS, the British never tried to turn Afghanistan into a “proper” state. As part of a forward policy, there was a failed early attempt to set up a puppet state. Later, there were quite successful attempts at containment – extensions of the punitive expedition approach that only needed shooting through and not sticking around.

  33. August 18th, 2006 at 20:21 | #33

    Pr Q says:

    Disasters like the US attack on Sadr (recognisable in retrospect as the opening battle of the Iraq Civil War) would never have taken place.

    Yes and No. The attack on the Shiia militants was a mistake and a crime by the US, which I stupidly and viciously supported at the time. (I was cross at the ingratitude of the Shiia to their liberators and thought this would knock some sense into the fundamentalist faction. But war only knocks the sense out of these people.)

    But the Sadr attack did not launch the Iraq civil war. The attack on Sadr was a sideshow, part of the US’s attempt to reduce Iranian influence on the Iraqi Shiia. It was a bad idea and achieved nothing but the alienation of the Shiia from the US.

    But the Sadr sideshow did nothing much to inflame Shiia sentiment against Suunis or vice-versa, which is the engine running the civil war. The Iraqi civil war really started in earnest with the Suuni bombing of the Shiia shrine at Karbala.

    The civil war was deliberately formented by Suuni militants attacking Shiia moderates. Thereby causing Shiia militants to enter the fray attacking Suuni moderates.

    The Suuni militants want a civil war as they think this is their only hope of extracting power and pelf from the Shiia, given that the Shiia now have the numbers in govt.

  34. milano803
    August 19th, 2006 at 04:09 | #34

    “I’m just wondering whether this charming sentiment is directed towards Saddam or towards the 100 000 or more innocent Iraqis who’ve died thanks to policies supported by Milano and others in this thread.”

    Both. Saddam was elected democratically, wasn’t he?

  35. jquiggin
    August 19th, 2006 at 06:14 | #35

    Milano803, if your last comment was intended seriously you’re too ignorant to have an opinion on this topic. If not, it was so morally obtuse that you ought to keep quiet.

  36. Katz
    August 19th, 2006 at 07:59 | #36

    Three assumptions lie behind some of the more assertive comments above:

    1. The US is capable of using its military power competently . Observa is particularly guilty of this one.

    2. It’s the fault of the ragheads that they can’t get on the world-historical program and become like the rest of us. This is the Strocchi line.

    3. Whatever appears to be the most likely outcome at this point of time is what the Bush regime was aiming to achieve. This is the Smiths line.

    All of these lines evade the central reason for opposing the various manifestations of Bush’s War on Terror. The Bush Administration consists of a pack of ignorant clowns who have no idea of the true nature of the task that they voluntarily took on in the name of “Civilisation”.

    If the Bush Administration were a firm of plumbers arrived to fix your pipes, as a sensible property owner you’d order them off the premises. Why should one’s attitude to them be any different simply because they’d turned up to attempt to fix the pipes of the world?

    They don’t know caution. They have no understanding of discretion. They are ignorant and arrogant. They’ve been let loose on the plumbing of the world and now many of us had best get used to lugging water around in buckets.

    I opposed Bush from the very beginning because I saw him and his pack of putzes for what they were.

  37. August 20th, 2006 at 00:15 | #37

    An assumption lying behind Katz’s thinking leads him into the error that the invasion of Iraq was merely a fumbled opportunity. The hyperbole that the Bush regime is so incompetent that it cannot even invade a thirld world country to secure some pretty basic strategic objectives is a conceptual caricature that has evolved over the last three years in the minds of those who thought the war could be justified if it was carried out by somebody other than George Bush.

    It’s all virtuous condemnation of Saddam but nothing about the destruction, death and ensuing years of misery attendant on large, violent invasions.

    Until you can be assured that you will not be opposed on the ground by the rank and file military, and that you can very quickly hand-over political administration to competent parties, you should not step across a border unless a terrible persecution is currently and actually in train. And then only for a very short time with your intentions loudly and clearly broadcast to the world.

    Bush invaded Iraq to further the national interests of the USA. It is still very likely that he will succeed. He has contained Iran. Put the heat on Syria and the Palestinians inter alia. And meanwhile the ocean of black stuff sits quietly ‘neath the sands waiting for the right economic moment.
    Safe and sound.

  38. Katz
    August 20th, 2006 at 07:00 | #38

    If you think so wbb.

    Until I see an invasion plan that I believe will have some hope of success, I don’t need to bother myself with questions of morality. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

    I happen to believe that the successful invasion and occupation plan for a situation like Iraq does not exist. The potential for successful insurgency far outweighs the potency of the occupying power unless it has overwhelming popular local support. It was the egregious overestimation of that popular support of the Americans in Iraq that served as the trigger for Bush’s ridiculous invasion. And Bush didthe invasion so much worse than he might have.

    “Bush invaded Iraq to further the national interests of the USA. It is still very likely that he will succeed. He has contained Iran. Put the heat on Syria and the Palestinians inter alia. And meanwhile the ocean of black stuff sits quietly ‘neath the sands waiting for the right economic moment.”

    Mere fantasy. This is a restatement of Smiths’s mistake.

    Contained Iran? Really? How had Iran been uncontained before the invasion of Iraq? Commentators of Left and Right agree that Iran has emerged the big winner from Iraq.

    Syria has been forced back in Lebanon, but that had little to do with Iraq and everything to do with local Lebanese politics. And in any case the recent Israeli fiasco has helped restore Syrian credibility.

    Palestine??? Restive, Islamicised. A thorn in the side of Israel and the US. Hamas cannot achieve its ambitions, but Palestine is further from a settlement than the first day that Chimpo shambled into the Oval Office.

  39. August 21st, 2006 at 00:12 | #39

    Katz, so when do you think the Great Powers lost their strategic interest in the ME/Persian Gulf and developed their democracy furtherance passion? Carter was still echoing FDR’s line that the gulf was the most important locale on the planet. OK, Clinton seemed to be on about Israel/Palestine peace. (But he was a dope-smoking, free-loving Hippy.) But then we are back to the PNAC boyz who were pretty unambiguous that US power must not wane.

    So did it all change with Bush II’s 911 epiphany?

    I don’t believe there has ever been a national security directive that has ever said anything other than ME oil must be secure. There certainly wasn’t one that said all UN resolutions must be upheld – or else we’ll drop bombs.

    Or that every man and woman on the planet must have the right to vote by 2010 – or we’ll drop bombs.

    I may in fact be wrong. But to conclude that all the oil/strategic talk is mere fantasy, is to ignore history, orthodox geo-pol and horse-sense.

  40. Katz
    August 21st, 2006 at 11:05 | #40

    We may be at cross purposes here WBB.

    Nothing I have written precludes the possibility that access to oil was a very important factor in motivating Chimpo’s Iraq attack.

    Indeed, nothing I have written in this thread addresses the interesting question of Chimpo’s motiviations. I have been concerned only with method and outcome.

    I happen to agree with you that access to oil served was the primary motivation for Chimpo’s Iraq Attack. And indeed this fiasco was a continuation of long-standing US policy by other means.

    I guess the more general point is that there is no necessary consequence that the methods will be rational and logical, even though the motives may be rational and logical.

    In short, Bush pursued logical ends by irrational means.

    And in the process, Bush has harmed, not assisted, longterm US interests in the ME region and in the world.

  41. August 22nd, 2006 at 00:20 | #41

    Ok, (I’ve never seen a horse so dead I didn’t want to give it another whack), but what about the view that Bush may have achieved his goal despite appearances. What if the US goal is so hard-nosed and long-term that all this violence in the interim – the birth pangs and the abortions – is merely Rumsfeldian Stuff-that-Happens. Stuff that in the broad – when you sweep it all up – matters not a jot – apart from being grist for the “net nut” mill.

    What if the logical ends have been pursued by bloodily pragmatic means that appear to us (in the midst) as insane, but with time’s perspective, appear almost prosaically text-book.

    I suppose you have to share my suspicion that oil is shorter than is let on, to follow this – to many – all too Machiavellian take, but anyways that’s a where I come from. And have from day one.

    I have often, over the last 3 years, asked on this very weblog what the economists take on oil is. Too often I get brushed of with platitudes about the wondeful mechanisms of the market to right all shortages. Meawhile the pump price rises. People still drive cars. And the US is still in Iraq. And China is the forgotten behemoth.

  42. Katz
    August 22nd, 2006 at 09:12 | #42

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    And that may well apply to you and me both, wbb.

    It is always possible that wise and devious men and women are constructing strategems that tick along like Swiss watches behind the distracting and confected chaos that seems to reign.

    It’s a worthwhile hypothesis to test. But unless one discovers evidence of the level of thinking you are referring to, there is no end to the possibilities, up to and including the possibility that Rumsfeld is in fact a Venusian.

    Just for starters, I think there is very good evidence that the Bush Administration was surprised and shocked by the influence of Sistani. He derailed their plans to establish a US protectorate in Iraq.

    Now the US does have enormous clout, if only resulting from 150,000 boots on the ground in Iraq. The Bush Administration didn’t cave, but rather constructed a fallback position in Iraq that is sustainable until full-scale civil war breaks out.

    It is also worth pointing out that the Bush Administration has also shelved its reconstruction plans for Iraq. Did they always intend to do this?

    OK, so what is the most likely scenario?

    I believe that Bush’s Iraq policy is now being driven mainly by US domestic political priorities. Bush’s handlers recognise that there is no political capital to be gained from withdrawal now. Their only road to political success for Bush loyalists in the forthcoming mid-term elections is to hang tough. This is the lowest risk policy. It may come off. and that will buy Bush two more years to attempt to retrieve something from his sputtering GWOT policies.

    If Bush loyalists are swept out of Congress, then it’s game over. Then Bush will be forced to change his policies. This may be a moment of danger, because it is possible that he could “go-for-broke” by doing something dramatic in relation to Iran.

    Anyway, I think my short answer to your interesting proposition is that I doubt that Bush’s handlers pictured the local political situation as the crucial battleground when Bush’s grand geopolitical strategy was being forged.

    Thus, I strong doubt that they are invincible Masters of the Universe.

  43. August 23rd, 2006 at 00:16 | #43

    Agree they are not the Masters. I do not maintain they are competent, merely that their designs are disappointingly brutish. Competence is not required.

    Sistani, as you say, was a one of the many shocks waiting to greet them as they sunk their size 12s into the hot sand.

    I know there is no coherent grand political strategy – merely a grubby grab for more purchase on Gaias’ fast dessicating tit. In the time honored tradition of all powerful tribes, of course.

    But our intercourse here is all shade and degree. I am aesthetically inclined (or limited) to an Asterix type view. Whereas as your good self is a scholar and a g’man.

  44. Katz
    August 23rd, 2006 at 08:31 | #44

    Thanks WBB. I’ve enjoyed our exchange.

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